IMMORTALITY AND THE DAILY PROMPT

And here is my original entry on this prompt. Which, as it turns out, is still pretty funny and as obnoxious as the first time I wrote it.

I am not sure I ever thought I was immortal — probably because I didn’t think about it at all. Until sometime in college, I did not ponder the nature of life and death.

College was a peak time for that kind of mental muck-raking. Was it the drugs? No, I’m inclined to think it was going to classes. You see, college presents no danger unless you actually attend lectures and stuff. If you just hang out on the quad, it’ll be okay. But I took courses like  “The Philosophy of Religion” and went to lectures on Phenomenology. And, I had a steady assignment of existential novels to read by Sartre, Camus, et al. Deep stuff. The kind of books I totally won’t look at any more.

96-Me Young in Maine

That this hyper-intellectual phase of my life coincided nicely with my first actual near-death experience was pure chance. It didn’t improve my personality, that’s for sure. There is nothing more aggravating than a teenage college student contemplating the philosophical meaning of life. And death. Had I not already been me, I would have had to expel myself as a punishment for being so annoying.

I’m pretty sure all of us thought we were very smart and had a solid grip on the life and death stuff. Even adding on my botched spine surgery — which nearly killed me for real and all — I was still an obnoxious wise-ass with an inflated sense of my intellectual prowess.

Things have really improved. Now I’m an aging senior citizen wise-ass. Oh, and I am pretty sure — not 100%, but maybe 90% — I am not immortal. Eventually, I’ll know for 100% certain.

I’ll get back to you on that.

WHAT’S NEXT? SING ALONG WITH TOM LEHRER

“What else could go wrong?  How much worse could things get?”

My husband and I have an agreement. We will never say those words. Not say them or even think them. Because no matter how bad things are, no matter how dark life looks, there’s always something else that can go wrong. If you are alive, you are already money ahead. You could be not alive.

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A fair number of people I counted as friends and loved ones are long gone and more are on that final leg of life’s journey. In the immortal words of Tom Lehrer “Soon we’ll all be sliding down that razor blade of life.” Ouch.

The other day, I was deep in a miasma of self-pity. It’s my least favorite place to be except in a hospital bed waking up to realize “Oh shit, this is going to be really bad …” I thought to myself, “You really are going to die.”

Then I said out loud. “Of course you are going to die. Was there ever the least bit of doubt about it? It was never an “if.” We are all going to die. When and how remain the only questions, but that’s a journey we’re all taking.”

None of the people I know have come back to tell me about the other side. Not one single person has reported back, so I’m not counting on going to a better place. I’m going to try to make the best of this place and let the next take care of itself.

summer bouquet

So what could go wrong? You think things couldn’t get worse?

They can go wronger and they can get worser. And given the shit-storm life is, it probably will. Go wronger. Get worser. So I will shut up and enjoy whatever there is to enjoy because we never know. Actually, we know. We just don’t want to think about it.

Tom Lehrer always cheers me up.

GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK

Thanks for your service, Rich Paschall

He had been in the business for almost 40 years.  The last twenty-seven of those with the same company.  He liked his job and thought he was good at it.  In just a few more years he would retire.  Everything seemed to be on track.

When Carl started in his career, orders were processed with typewriters.  Carbon paper was used when multiple copies were required.  Details of international orders were sent overseas by telex machine.  Everything was done manually and file cabinets were stuffed with files of all the orders and shipments.

Carl made it through all the changes.  At first he thought an electronic typewriter with memory was just about the coolest thing.  Fax machines took the place of telex machines and world-wide communication was getting easier.  As the decades went on, technology and communications advanced faster and faster, but Carl kept right up with everything.  You could never say that Carl was behind the times.

Despite the efficiency of his work life, the same could not be said of Carl’s personal life until recent years.  Only as retirement thoughts started weighing on his mind did Carl pay attention to his accounts.  For the last few years he contributed to the 401K plan.  He even took out some small CDs for better interest return, since savings and checking accounts returned him only pennies per month, literally.

With age, came the problems of advancing age.  Bifocals were no longer good enough to do his job.  He was recommended to get trifocals but opted for a second pair of glasses just to see the computer.  His hands were stiff and sore and he needed medication for that.

Nerve pain in the feet demanded a drug as did high cholesterol.  His blood tests never satisfied his doctor and even when he felt well, there were many pills to take.  With all these issues, Carl still carried on in grand fashion and handled his job like a pro.

When Carl got a new boss, they seemed to get along well.  She appeared to appreciate his experience and they often had nice little chats.  When Carl asked if he could come in late so he could have his annual physical, his boss seemed disappointed.  He assured her he would make up the time during the week and she finally voiced approval.

The doctor’s visit showed the usual issues, but also “abnormal cells in undetermined significance.”  Carl was referred to a specialist and he had to ask for another morning off.  The boss looked quite perturbed when she said “OK, if you must.” Unfortunately for Carl, he did in fact feel he must see the doctor.

The specialist was a handsome young man with a sunny disposition.  He indicated all the dire situations that may be happening with such a cute smile, Carl still felt at ease.  His examination and subsequent biopsy lead to “dysplasia but cells are undetermined.”  Carl was recommended to a surgeon.

Again, Carl asked for a morning off.  The stares of the boss led Carl to say he would make up his time the same week and he would not ask for any more time off in the coming months.  He was greeted with a long and painful silence.  “Fine,” the boss stated with an air of exasperation.

The following day was a Wednesday and Carl worked hard all day under the glares of his much younger boss.  Whenever Carl looked around, she seemed to be nearby staring at him.  Needless to say, it was a rather uncomfortable day.  Normally, Carl had pleasant days and nice little chats with coworkers.  He never got close to any of them or saw them socially.  One young man loved having random little conversations with Carl about anything everyday, but he was the only friend, if you could call him that.  Carl was just at work to do his job.

At the end of that day, just past 5 pm, the facilities manager, the superior to Carl’s boss, invited Carl down to her office for a chat.  When he got there his boss was already seated and staring at the floor.  The facilities manager began.

“Carl, you know we think you have been doing excellent work for us for many years but…” Then there was a long pause while the manager looked for the words.  “Well, business has fallen off some.  The stronger dollar means weaker business. We are well behind budget for the year and we must eliminate a position.  I am sorry, but we have to let you go.”

Carl was dumbfounded.  He planned to work another two or three years and retire.  He was not ready for this.  His boss continued to look at the floor when the manager spoke up again.  She explained about the last pay check, vacation pay, Cobra insurance, unemployment.  She said she would write a nice letter of recommendation.  She closed by saying she was sorry, it was not personal, it was just economics.  She thanked him for his years of service.  His boss continued to stare at the floor.

pills and wine

pills and wine

He returned to his desk, took a few personal items while his bossed hovered nearby and he was then prepared to leave.  That’s when she came over and asked for his badge and ID and walked away.  “What was that?” a longtime female coworker asked.  “I was fired,” he replied.  The coworker started to cry.  Carl quietly said goodbye, looked around for his young friend, who was already gone, and he left.

After a few days of reviewing jobs on-line and making a few calls, Carl saw it would be difficult at his age and salary range to find a new position.  That night, he lined up all of his prescriptions on the kitchen table, including the container of powerful pain killers for his hand pain.  Next, he got a bottle of one of his favorite wines, appropriately chilled.  He opened the wine, poured himself a glass and sat down at the kitchen table.  There he looked over the table and contemplated his future.

 

LIFE’S WALK-OFF HOME RUN

Grand Slam

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Being baseball fans, when you mention baseball and walk-off home runs, David Ortiz pops into mind. He isn’t the Big Poppy he was in the past, but he has his good days.

The Sox are so not in it this year, but it’s been an interesting baseball decade. We’ve had a fair share of victories. In theory, our boys could still do something. In reality, it seems beyond merely unlikely.

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My walk-off home run would be a multi-faceted magic remedy to alleviate arthritis, regenerate missing body parts and internal organs, cure skin rashes and hair loss … combined with at least one big score on the lottery.

nationals in DC baseball

On a more modest level, I’d be happy with a good night’s sleep and waking up free from pain.

That said, I’m not unhappy. Life remains engaging, entertaining, amusing, fun. I’ve had to find new things to enjoy and different ways to enjoy them, but we all have to adapt. I guess I don’t remember “the old days” as so much better than right now. Different. Not necessarily better.

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We change, the world changes. It takes some enterprise to find new stuff to enjoy, but it’s not beyond our ability to learn to play on a new field. Even to figure out how to hit one of the park.

LOVE/HATE CHALLENGE

It has been over a month since WIL threw this challenge my way so it is time to stop procrastinating and give you my top ten lists.

“Ok, so here are the instructions:

List 10 things I love and 10 things I hate – then nominate 10 fellow bloggers to do the same.”

Love:
1. My friends (some more than others)
2. France (Alsace particularly)
3. Chicago Sports teams
4. Deep dish pizza
5. French wine (white mostly)
6. Micro brew (312, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, others)
7. Travel (I wish I could do more)
8. Music
9. Adventure movies
10. Chicago, the band

Hate:
1. New York sports teams (a requirement to live in Chicago)
2. Green Bay Packers (another Chicago requirement)
3. Cilantro (a little goes a long way)
4. Cumin
5. Guns and Roses
6. Haters
7. Internet memes (a great source of misinformation)
8. Starbucks (pushing local coffee and tea shops out-of-the-way)
9. Religious fanatics (hating in the name of God is particularly sinful)
10. Squid

OK, let’s see who answers back.  It would just be wrong if I did not start the list of nominations with Marilyn.  I nominate:

1. SERENDIPITY
2. SERENDIPITY (This one’s for Garry)
3. MikesFilmTalk
4. Taps and Ratamacues
5. Creeped.
6. wandering story teller
7. That’s Gay.
8. swo8
9. Wheelchair Traveller
10. JamesRadcliffe.com

The hardest part of this challenge was chasing down the urls for the nominees.  I have a few others in mind, but their blogs do not seem to lend themselves to a challenge since they are all photography, all poetry or all politics.  This seems to fits us eclectic types.  So what do you love/hate?

AVOID FLYING SPACE JUNK

FORGET ME NOT?

Anybody can die of anything anytime. It’s a fact. You, me, anyone — we could step into the street and get hit by a bus. Be struck by lightning. Fall down, break our skull. We could be tooling along on the way to the grocery store and get broadsided by a truck.

The likelihood of imminent demise is statistically higher for some of us. By definition, the longer you live, the closer comes your last day on Earth. Unless you are my ex-mother-in-law. She lived to 104. We thought she might have beaten the odds — a special case — but in the end, she succumbed. Not, however, without a fight.

macro fuchsia July 2015

Me, I’m another story. I’m almost dying every day. Nobody — certainly not me — would bet two cents on my survival. Yet here I am. If not standing straight and tall, than at least crouching crooked and hunched. Let’s not be picky. I’m here, right?

I have been hit by meteorites. Not once. Several times.

It seems post-meteorite hit technology has come a long way. Although each hit whacked me senseless and knocked me off my feet, I managed to climb up again. A little the worse for wear, but breathing. Maybe more like gasping, but moving air.

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Over all, it’s best to avoid meteorites, but if you are in the known trajectory of an oncoming extraterrestrial object, there are a number of strategies worth trying.

Duck. Hide. Run away. Roll into a ball and play dead. If these don’t do it, figure on having a really bad headache and some scars. And a great story to tell to your friends, later.

My legacy? Really, you want to know my legacy? How about surviving multiple hits by flying junk from outer space? If that’s not enough, I took some pretty pictures. Wrote some stuff, too.

That should do it, you think?

THEN, SHE SAID “CHRIST DIED SO WE WOULD BE NICE TO EACH OTHER”

IN MEMORY OF MARILYN BAKER, MY FRIEND WHO IS GONE

I had a very dear friend who recently died. When I first wrote this, she was going through a terrible time. The thing she feared the most had come to pass. Her husband was sick, never likely to get better, and her children were pulling them out of the home they’d shared for more than 60 years.

marilyn baker 2

Her Christian faith never wavered. She remained calm, unshaken, even though her world was being disassembled. I was heartbroken. Inconsolable. I knew I’d never see her again. We both knew.

She once told me you could sum up Christianity in a sentence.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Christ died,” she answered, “so we would be nice to each other — even before morning coffee.” Then she smiled, and sipped from her cup.

Marilyn Baker

Be kind to everyone. Even when you don’t feel like it. Especially then. Because maybe you’ll never see them again.